Britain must not remain passive any longer – this is our EU by treaty. It is not pedantic to insist it can only legally be changed by unanimity. So the UK must now start to champion a credible, but different, design to set alongside other reforms. Politicians must have the determination to stay at the negotiating table until there is unanimity. No walk-outs, just quiet persistence. Where the UK can act with others, so much the better, but Britain must have the confidence to set out its design for Europe – a wider Europe and a deeper Europe, living alongside and in harmony with each other.
Turkey deserves to be involved in this single market restructuring; so do the European Economic Area (EEA) countries, Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein. The EEA was set to have Switzerland as a member, but a referendum on joining returned a “no” vote. However, that has been largely circumvented and Switzerland is in fact closely associated.
The setting up of the EEA on 1 January 1994, as the then President of the European Commission, Jacques Delors, claimed, marked a further step in the long-standing process of rapprochement between the European Union and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries. The EEA, however, is a hand-me-down structure from the EU. It has to change and be funded and controlled by all its members. It should have the existing acquis communitaire, qualified majority voting and a single negotiator for world trade.
My e-book, Europe Restructured?, provides a description of a transformed EEA, which includes Turkey. Turkey already has a customs union with the EU. The ruling Turkish Justice and Development Party, AKP, was first elected in 2002 and was re-elected for a third time in June 2011. It is a recognisable European political party. In economic and industrial performance, Turkey has become a mainstream European country.
A UK referendum on Europe is inevitable. It will need to take place between 2013 and 2016, depending on how soon Eurozone integration takes place and I think the people of this country should be asked two questions:
1. Do you want the UK to be a part of the single market in a wider European Community? Yes/No
2. Do you want the UK to remain in the European Union, keeping open the option of joining the integrated Eurozone? Yes/No
It’s time for the British people and politicians to punch their weight.
Lord Owen is a cross-bench peer. He is a former Labour Party foreign secretary and was chairman of New Europe from 1999-2005, campaigning against the UK adopting the euro.